School massacre

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A school massacre is an incident of attempted mass murder, involving at least one actual death, that occurs at a school. Unlike other forms of school violence, there is usually no single target; the perpetrator's objective is to kill as many people as possible. Sometimes these events are perpetrated by students; in other cases, expelled students, alumni, or even total outsiders commit them.

In the United States, school violence, especially of the gang-related sort, is more common in poor, inner-city schools, but student-perpetrated school massacres most often occur in affluent suburbs where they receive the most media attention due to severity in a brief period of time.

Like terrorist attacks, school massacres are very rare but traumatic. They receive extensive media coverage and often result in nationwide changes of school discipline and security policies.

The most widely publicized school massacre in the United States was the student-perpetrated Columbine High School massacre in Colorado.


A secondary danger of school shootings is that, like youth suicide, they have a tendency to inspire "copycat" incidents or even epidemics of the same behavior. After the Columbine massacre, for example, a number of American and Canadian high school students plotted "Columbine-like" attacks; the vast majority of these plots were half-baked and unlikely ever to be taken to execution; of those attempted, almost all were foiled. The Red Lake High School massacre in 2005 (Red Lake, Minnesota) was a notable exception, copying the element of a gunman in a black trench coat.

Although Columbine prompted a number of shooting plots, most deadly school shootings took place earlier, between 1996 and 1998. As of 2005, there are indications that China is experiencing its own epidemic of school violence. In China, most school killings involve knives; in the U.S., they involve firearms.

Notable school massacres

Other primary and elementary school killings

September 15, 1959 Houston, Texas Paul Orgeron detonates a bomb at Edgar Allan Poe Elementary School, killing himself, a teacher (Jennie Kolter), a custodian (James Arlie Montgomery), and three 7-year old boys, including Dusty Paul, Orgeron's son.
June 11, 1964 Cologne-Volkhoven, Germany Walter Seifert enters a primary school with a flame thrower and a lance. Eight children and two teachers die in the attack, and another 21 are injured.
January 1979 San Diego, California 17-year-old Brenda Ann Spencer took a rifle that she got for Christmas and headed to Cleveland Elementary School, which was across the street from her house. She fired rampantly, killing two men and injuring eight children and a police officer. When the six-hour incident ended, she shrugged, "I don't like Mondays. This livens up the day." She also noted that "There was no reason for it, and it was just a lot of fun"; "It was just like shooting ducks in a pond"; and "[The children] looked like a herd of cows standing around, it was really easy pickings." Soon after, the Dublin punk band Boomtown Rats wrote the song "I Don't Like Mondays" which was based on the incident.
January 17, 1989 Stockton, California 25-year-old Patrick Purdy fires an AK-47 at random at Cleveland Elementary School, killing five children (aged between 6 and 9) and wounding 29 others and one teacher, before taking his own life. The incident inspires a rash of legislation restricting the purchase of assault weapons.
February 29, 2000 Mount Morris Township, Michigan A 7-year-old boy shoots 6-year-old Kayla Rolland in the neck with a .32 semi-automatic handgun; Rolland dies, and the boy's father is charged for the crime.
June 1, 2004 Sasebo, Japan A 11-year-old 6th-grade girl slashed and killed her classmate Satomi Mitarai at Okubo Elementary School in the town of Sasebo, in Nagasaki prefecture. This led to creation of the Nevada-tan Internet meme.

Other secondary school killings

March 2, 1987 Missouri 12-year-old honor student Nathan Ferris brought a gun to school. He killed a student who teased him before he killed himself.
May 1, 1992 Olivehurst, California 20-year-old Eric Houston killed four people and wounded 10 in an armed siege at his former high school. He shot up the school in retribution for failing a grade. He was given the death penalty for the shooting.
January 18, 1993 Grayson, Kentucky 17-year-old Scott Pennington shot his English teacher in the head and a school janitor in the abdomen, killing both.
September 21, 1995 Rochester, New York 13-year-old Stephne Givens was fatally stabbed at Jefferson Middle School. The attacker was a twelve-year-old schoolmate who confronted Stephne as she exited a school bus. Stephne was stabbed in the back after a brief scuffle over a boy.
November 15, 1995 Giles County, Tennessee 17-year-old Jamie Rouse walked into the Richland School, dressed in black, with a Remington Viper. He shot two teachers in the head, killing one of them. He then attempted to kill the football coach, but a female student in the way was hit in the neck instead.
February 2, 1996 Moses Lake, Washington 14-year-old student Barry Loukaitis, dressed up as a wild west gunslinger, turned a hunting rifle on his algebra class at Frontier Junior High School, killing two classmates, Manuel Vela and Arnie Fritz, and a teacher, Leona Caires. A fourth student was shot in the arm. Loukaitis was convicted of two counts of aggravated first degree murder and sentenced to two mandatory life terms without parole.
February 2, 1996 Atlanta, Georgia 12-year-old David Dubose killed a teacher in the hallway of his school.
January 27, 1997 West Palm Beach, Florida 13-year-old Tronneal Magnum shot and killed another student in front of his school.
February 19, 1997 Bethel, Alaska 16-year-old student Evan Ramsey opened fire with a shotgun at Bethel High School, killing the school principal and one student, and wounding two others.
October 1, 1997 Pearl, Mississippi 16-year-old Luke Woodham stabbed his mother, then took a rifle to Pearl High School where he opened fire, shooting nine students. Both Woodham's ex-girlfriend Christina Menefee and her friend Lydia Kay Dew died. Six other boys were later accused of conspiracy.
December 1, 1997 West Paducah, Kentucky 14-year-old Michael Carneal carried five fully-loaded guns to Heath High School, shot at a prayer group, killing three (Jessica James, Nichole Hadley, and Kayce Steger) students and wounding another five. Five of the victims were shot in the head, and three were hit in the upper torso. One of the wounded girls was paralyzed for life.
April 24, 1998 Edinboro, Pennsylvania 14-year-old Andrew J. Wurst went to the school graduation dance where he shot and killed a popular science teacher. He subsequently opened fire on more students, wounding another teacher and two classmates before he ran out of ammunition.
May 19, 1998 Fayetteville, Tennessee Three days before graduation, 18-year-old honor student Jacob Davis allegedly confronted, then shot and killed 18-year-old Nick Creson in the parking lot of his school. Creson was dating Davis' ex-girlfriend. Davis allegedly then put the gun down and put Creson's head in his hands.
May 21, 1998 Springfield, Oregon Two boys, Ben Walker and Mikael Nickolauson, were killed and more than 20 other students were injured when 15-year-old Kip Kinkel opened fire in the school cafeteria of Thurston High School. The murdered bodies of Kip's parents, were later discovered at their home. Kip is now serving life in prison without the possibility of parole.
April 28, 1999 Taber, Alberta, Canada 15-year-old Todd Cameron Smith, who had recently been withdrawn from public school to escape bullying, walked into W.R. Myers High School and shot two students with a .22 rifle, killing one (Jason Lang) and injuring the other.
October 20, 1999 Houston, Texas A 14-year-old boy named Estanislao Balderas stabs and kills a 13-year-old boy named Samuel Avila in the head with a screwdriver in a fight at Deady Middle School.
November 20, 1999 Deming, New Mexico A boy shot 13-year-old Aralecy Tena in the back of the head in the lobby of Deming Middle School. Tena dies after being taken off of life support.
March 2000 Brannenburg, Bavaria, Germany A 16-year-old student at a private boarding school shoots a 57-year old teacher dead, before shooting himself. He had failed a cannabis test.
May 26, 2000 West Palm Beach, Florida 13-year-old Nathaniel Brazill shoots his English teacher, 35-year-old Barry Grunow, in the face on the last day of school.
March 5, 2001 Santee, California 15-year-old Charles Andrew Williams opens fire in a boy's bathroom at Santana High School, killing two students (Randy Gordon and Bryan Zuckor), he then opens the door of the bathroom and shoots out into the commons area, wounding thirteen.
April 24, 2003 Red Lion, Pennsylvania 14-year-old James Sheets shoots dead his middle school principal Eugene Segro in the busy school cafeteria before committing suicide.
September 24, 2003 Cold Spring, Minnesota 15-year-old Jason McLaughlin shoots Aaron Rollins and Seth Bartell at Rocori High School. Rollins dies the same day; Bartell dies October 10 of injuries sustained in the attack.
January 13, 2004 Den Haag, Netherlands Murat D. kills Hans van Wieren, a 49-year-old teacher at Terra College.
February 2, 2004 Washington, D.C. At about 10:30 a.m. EST, a teenager(?) opens fire at Ballou High School, killing a 16-year-old boy and wounding an 18-year-old.
February 3, 2004 Palmetto Bay, Florida Fifteen minutes prior to the start of classes, at about 8:45 a.m. EST, 14-year old Michael Hernandez stabbed and slit the throat of 14-year-old classmate, Jaime Rodrigo Gough, while in a restroom at Southwood Middle School, a public music magnet school in suburban Miami. Hernandez was tried as an adult, and sentenced to life in prison without parole. A search of his home revealed he had concocted plans to murder several classmates and even his younger sister. His journal revealed he was obsessed with perfection, admired Nazi Germany, Hitler, and fascism.
March 30, 2004 Gary, Indiana Neal Boyd IV is shot in the parking lot of Wallace High School.
August 4, 2004 Beijing, China Xu Heping, a 51-year-old doorman with a history of mental illness who feared that he may be made redundant, stabbed 15 children and three teachers while they were playing in the schoolyard at the nursery in Beijing University's Number One Hospital. One child was killed.
September 28, 2004 Carmen de Patagones,
Buenos Aires Province, Argentina
A 15-year-old boy killed three classmates (two girls and a boy) and wounded another five in a high school. The boy, known by the initials R. S. and nicknamed Junior, shot a 9mm pistol belonging to his father, an officer of the Prefectura Naval (Coast Guard), inside the classroom after the ceremony of flag hoisting. The boy was arrested and taken to Bahía Blanca. In December 2004 he was transferred to a penal institution for young offenders in La Plata.
November 26, 2004 Ruzhou, China At around midnight, an intruder stabbed eight students to death and injured four others at Ruzhou's Number Two High School. There was no obvious motive. This was the sixth such incident in China in four months. A suspect was later arrested after he tried to commit suicide.
November 8, 2005 Jacksboro, Tennesse After reports that a 14 year old freshmen had a gun the Assistant principals and principal confronted him. The boy shot and killed one of the Assistant principal and wounded the other two.

Other post-secondary school killings

December 6, 1989 Montreal, Quebec, Canada École Polytechnique Massacre where 14 engineering students, all women, were shot and killed by Marc Lépine. The murderer then turned the gun upon himself.
August 24, 1992 Montreal, Quebec, Canada Disgruntled and delusional professor Valery Fabrikant murders four colleagues and shoots a secretary.
December 14, 1992 Great Barrington, Massachusetts Wayne Lo went on a shooting rampage at Simon's Rock College Killing a student and a professor and injuring several others.
August 15, 1996 San Diego, California Frederick Martin Davidson, a San Diego State University engineer graduate student, shoots and kills 3 professors during the start of his master thesis defense.
October 21, 2002 Melbourne, Victoria, Australia Monash University shooting where 2 commerce students were shot and killed, and others injured, by fellow student Huan Xiang. Xiang was restrained by others in the classroom and later tried.

Attempted murder

July 8, 1996 Blakenhall,
Wolverhampton, England
Horrett Campbell, a 33-year-old man with paranoid schizophrenia, invaded a teddy bears' picnic being held St Luke's Primary School and slashed three young children and four adults with a machete. Lisa Potts, a 20-year-old nursery nurse, was awarded the George Medal for her actions, saving children's lives despite suffering severe injuries.
June 15, 1998 Richmond, Virginia 14-year old Quinshawn Booker fired a pistol in a crowded hallway of Armstrong High School, injuring two adults, as other students were taking final exams.
May 20, 1999 Conyers, Georgia 15-year-old Thomas J. Solomon injures six classmates at Heritage High School.
1999 Bridgman, Michigan Bridgman, Michigan school shooting plot
2002 China A kindergarten doctor confessed to putting rat poison in salt at a rival nursery. 70 children and two teachers became seriously ill.
May 7, 2004 Randallstown, Maryland 18-year-old Matthew McCullough and 24-year-old Tyrone Devon Brown shot four students from Randallstown High School following a brawl with football players in a parking lot. One of the victims is left partially paralysed.
September 2004 Suzhou, near Shanghai, China A man armed with a knife and homemade explosives attacked 28 children at a kindergarten

School shootings in popular culture

Films about school shootings

Films with school shootings

TV series featuring school shootings

Songs about school shootings

Novels about school shootings

External links